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California high school under fire for ‘angry Arab’ mascot

Arab_Mascot.jpg

FILE 2005: Coachella Valley High School's mascot dances to the band during a pep rally at the school in Thermal, Calif. (AP/The Desert Sun, Marilyn Chung)

A graduate from a Southern California high school under fire for its "Arab" mascot says the mascot is not a swipe at any ethnic group, but rather a source of pride at the school.

"There was no intention to demean Arabs or be discriminatory in any way. It was created as a proud mascot of Coachella Valley High School, and it's been that way ever since. I don't think it's right to decide now that you can't do that anymore. It is political correctness run amok, I would say," David Hinkle, a graduate of the school's class of  '61, told MyDesert.com.

On Friday, a civil rights group asked that the school eliminate the mascot, calling it an "example of gross stereotyping."

"If they want to keep that Arab name, they need to make it a bit more acceptable."

- Art Montoya, a director of the alumni association

The mascot, based on the 'angry Arab' design, depicts a mustachioed man with a grimace and traditional Arab head covering who performs at halftime with a female belly dancer, MyDesert.com reports.

"By allowing continued use of the term and imagery, you are commending and enforcing the negative stereotypes of an entire ethnic group, millions of whom are citizens of this nation," Abed A. Ayoub, the director of legal and policy affairs for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, reportedly said in a letter.

Darryl Adams, the superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District, reportedly said he would take up the matter at an upcoming board meeting. Adams, who is African-American, says he is "sensitive" to stereotyping.

"But in this context, when this was created, it was not meant in that way,” he reportedly said.

The report points out that the mascot at the school dates back to the 1920s as a nod to the area's date fruit industry. There are a number of links to the Middle East from the community, including a nearby town named Mecca, the school's alumni association says.

Art Montoya, 74, a director of the alumni association, told the paper that the design dates back in the 1950s and was meant to provoke fear for opponents of the school's football team. He notes that times are changing and said, "If they want to keep that Arab name, they need to make it a bit more acceptable."

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